Peter Petroff February 1936

Decline of Fascism – European Perspectives

Source: Labour, February 1936, p. 137;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

When the German magnates of capital adopted political gangsterism as a system of government a chorus of reactionaries in various countries rejoiced.

They believed the Labour Movement was dying, the “spectre” of Socialism had vanished, and Fascist reaction would triumph in Europe. They hoped that by the barbarisation of political and social life, by the destruction of culture and the demolition of all working-class organisations capitalism would receive a new lease of life and the power and privileges of the capitalist class would be retained for ever. Those who had misgivings cherished the hope that Fascism or Nazism would tamed and civilised in the process.

A number of clownish authors, of publicists, diplomatic and other correspondents proclaimed the leaders of Fascism as saviours and supermen. Some even “discovered” traits of the fictitious “corporate state” in this country and elsewhere.

However, Fascist dictatorship, if it were to survive for any length of time, would lead to the degradation and destruction of the very economic system it was intended to save. For it is not possible by the ruthless use of means of oppression to override economic laws.

The attempt to turn back the wheel of history produces in all Fascist countries a state of degradation and misery. The Fascist governments try to find a way out of this chaos by plunging into imperialist and militarist adventures.

Dictators are bound, sooner or later, to lose their sense of realities. When Mussolini embarked on his Abyssinian adventure his fate was sealed.

Fascist dictatorship makes a fetish of militarism and educates the entire population for war. But by suppressing the initiative of the people and replacing it by an inefficient and corrupt bureaucratic machine, Fascism creates the conditions for its own defeat. Having fled into war from its internal troubles it soon finds that those same troubles are more difficult to cope with in time of war than in time of peace. Thus, warlike Fascism soon reveals to its astonished supporters its complete inability to bring a war to a successful issue.

Incapable of gaining victory Fascism is less than any other regime able to stand defeat. A desperate and demoralised army returns to a country of misery and starvation to swell the numbers of the unemployed. In ensuing storm the fragile ship of the totalitarian State is bound to be smashed on the rocks.

This is the perspective with which Mussolini is now faced.

In Germany Nazism is also rapidly moving towards bankruptcy.

In the three years of Nazi rule Germany has been economically and financially ruined and culturally reduced to the level of the Middle Ages. Her social services, once a model for Europe, lie in ruins; her proud municipal achievements have been reduced to nought and her municipalities have been handed over for corrupt Nazi hooligans to exploit. The great German working-class movement has been suppressed, its institutions created by the unceasing effort and hard struggle of three generations of workers have been stolen and turned into Nazi dens. Germany’s great education system, which the Republic had infused with new life and new ideas, has been vulgarised and militarised; the schools have been turned into barracks, the universities into happy hunting grounds for Nazi desperadoes.

German industry is being put on a war footing. Large plants are being removed from their natural districts to more central districts. While most of the available means are being used to ensure the import of raw materials for the war industry, industrialists arc coerced or coaxed by subsidies and a peculiar self-blockade into uneconomic investments for the production of expensive and inferior substitutes. The boom in the war industries is accompanied by a general lowering of wages and of the standard of life which intensifies the depression of the industries working for the home consumers.

The financial position of Germany is shrouded in darkness. Dr Schacht is undoubtedly a master of the art of mystification. The Finance Minister, Krosigk, declared in October 1935, that Germany’s total indebtedness reached 33.5 milliards of marks. But this is an understatement. The actual indebtedness of Germany is a well-kept secret. The existing inflation, though carefully hidden to the eye, begins to cause concern even to the man in the street. The shortage of food and raw materials, the curtailing of imports tells its tale.

The food situation is catastrophic. The cutting down of the import of fodder in conjunction with a bad harvest of potatoes has led to a considerable decrease in the production of meat and dairy products. There is an unbearable shortage of fats.

While products are scarce and prices are rising wages are still being reduced. Piece-work replaces time-work; new fraudulent means of calculating wages arc being introduced; overtime remains unpaid; while the deductions for insurance, taxes, etc., amount to about one-fourth of the nominal wage. There are attempts to militarise the workers in industry while growing unemployment reduces their power of resistance.

Discontent is rapidly spreading amongst all classes of the population. Everyone has his special grudge against the regime and the Nazi rulers are regarded as a caste of oppressors alien to the people. In this situation the introduction of conscription is rather a source of weakness than of strength to the Nazi regime. Germany is in a state of growing tension.

Under these circumstances, the collapse of Italian Fascism would, undoubtedly, have serious repercussions in Germany. It would intensify the crisis of the Nazi regime and might be the signal for the overthrow of Fascist oppression in all Middle Europe.

We, therefore, find various reactionary forces of Europe strenuously at work to save Fascism. The Laval-Hoare peace proposals can be explained only by the desire to save Fascism from imminent destruction. Various manoeuvres are taking place behind the scenes. The Vatican, the Belgian king and some of his relatives are feverishly at work. Sporting matches, banquets of British aristocrats and German princes, talks of handing over colonies to Nazi Germany are just signs of the time. We need not wonder should we find pro-Nazi resolutions on the order papers of democratic Parliaments.

Obviously, what inspires this activity is not so much love of Fascism as fear of what will replace it. There is a widespread belief that the inheritance of Fascism would be taken over by Communist dictatorship. A baseless idea! Peoples who have experienced Fascist dictatorship may be expected to be cured from any desire for dictatorship whatever – there might follow a great revival of democratic ideas. Both in Italy and Germany we may look forward to the advent of a new vigorous, rejuvenated revolutionary yet democratic Socialist Movement ready to undertake the Herculean task of cleaning the Augean stables of Fascism or Nazism.

However, there is a real danger that Nazism, faced with failure, will be desperate enough to plunge Europe into war. Thus the international working-class, while increasing its efforts to bring down the Italian aggressor, has to act also against the potential aggressor, Nazi Germany.